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Passive cooling for initiation of therapeutic hypothermia in neonatal encephalopathy
  1. Giles S Kendall1,
  2. Andrew Kapetanakis1,
  3. Nandiran Ratnavel2,
  4. Denis Azzopardi3,
  5. Nicola J Robertson1
  6. on behalf of the Cooling on Retrieval Study Group
  1. 1Department of Academic Neonatology, EGA Institute for Women's Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2London Neonatal Transfer Service, Royal London Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3Division of Clinical Sciences, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Giles S Kendall, Institute for Women's Health, University College London, 86-96 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK; g.kendall{at}


Objective To determine the feasibility of passive cooling to initiate therapeutic hypothermia before and during transport.

Methods Consensus guidelines were developed for passive cooling at the referring hospital and on transport by the London Neonatal Transfer Service. These were evaluated in a prospective study.

Results Between January and October 2009, 39 infants were referred for therapeutic hypothermia; passive cooling was initiated at the referring hospital in all the cases. Despite guidance, no rectal temperature measurements were taken before arrival of the transfer team. Cooling below target temperature (33°C–34°C) occurred in five babies before the arrival of the transfer team. In two of these infants, active cooling was performed, rectal temperature was not recorded and their temperature was lower than 32°C. Of the remaining 37 babies, 33 (89%) demonstrated a reduction in core temperature with passive cooling alone. The percentage of the babies within the temperature range at referral, arrival of the transfer team and arrival at the cooling centre were 0%, 15% and 67%, respectively. On arrival at the cooling centre, four babies had cooled to lower than 33°C by passive cooling alone (32.7°C, 32.6°C, 32.2°C and 32.1°C). Initiation of passive cooling before and during transfer resulted in the therapy starting 4.6 (1.8) h earlier than if initiated on arrival at the cooling centre.

Conclusions Passive cooling is a simple and effective technique if portable cooling equipment is unavailable. Rectal temperature monitoring is essential; active cooling methods without core temperature monitoring may lead to overcooling.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.